Category Archives: Turnovers and Deliverables

Feature Turnover Guide – VFX

Feature Turnover Guide – VFX

Managing VFX is a daunting subject and a big task, even for smaller films. It’s so complicated that films that can afford it will hire a separate VFX Editor just to keep track of the film’s VFX and to create temp comps as placeholders until the VFX come in. I’ve been putting off writing this article for years now because the thought of trying to encapsulate it all in a generically useful way was a bit overwhelming, but here goes…

The Job of A VFX Editor

On bigger films, there is at least one VFX Editor, and often there are two or three. On smaller films, the kind with one editor and one assistant, that assistant editor handles all the usual AE duties plus all the VFX Editor tasks. If you’ve never done it before, it’s a steep learning curve. VFX Editors are responsible for:

  • Creating temp comps for the editor to use while cutting, before any VFX vendors start working
  • Tracking every shot in the timeline that needs any kind of VFX, and giving it a shot ID
  • Tracking changes to the cut that change what VFX are needed. This includes knowing when a shot is cut out, when a new shot is added, when a shot is slipped far enough that your handles no longer cover it, or when sync is changed within a shot that will affect sound or the vfx work that needs to be done.
  • Creating “count sheets” (sometimes called lineup sheets) that detail each shot, what work is needed, what elements the VFX vendor needs to complete the shot, and the timing of each element in relation to the overall shot.
  • Creating EDLs or Pull Lists for a Post facility to scan/render DPX frames of your plates and elements to hand over to the VFX vendor. If you don’t have a Post facility, you might be in charge of rendering out DPX frames yourself using the raw camera footage and software like DaVinci Resolve.
  • Receiving versions of all the shots from your VFX vendor, cutting them into the timeline, reviewing each version with the editor and director, then taking the notes from those review sessions and communicating them back to the vendor.
  • As shots are being finaled, assuring that the finished shots are delivered in the appropriate format to the DI facility, and that the right version of the shot was delivered.
  • Constantly checking and re-checking all of the above, because things always fall through the cracks.

The VFX Database

One essential tool that VFX Editors need in order to do their work is an effective way to manage all of this information. This usually comes in the form of a VFX Database, and most VFX Editors bring their own to each new job they start. Most of the time the database is made with Filemaker Pro, but some VFX editors have custom solutions, and if your needs are minimal you can get away with using a simple spreadsheet. There is no standard VFX database out there, though I’ve seen at least one that you can pay for if you don’t want to get into designing a Filemaker database on your own. Many VFX Editors are protective of their databases, which is understandable given the hours of customization they’ve put into creating them, so if you need a database and find someone with a good one who’s willing to share, consider yourself lucky.

Marty Kloner's VFX Database for Star Trek Into Darkness

Marty Kloner’s VFX Database for Star Trek Into Darkness

If you do borrow someone else’s database, one thing to consider is whether you like their workflow and are willing to emulate it. One of the reasons that these databases are so customized is that everyone has their own ideas on how to do each part. Are you someone who likes to enter all the shot information manually, or do you create subclips in a bin and then export a tab-delimited file to import into your database? Do you need a thumbnail for all your elements in addition to the shot itself, and if so do you need just one thumbnail or a heads & tails set to confirm start and end frames? And how do you name your shots? With a two letter sequence prefix and a padded four digit number, or do you break it up by scene first?

The answers to all of those questions help determine the needs of your database, so if you inherit someone else’s be prepared to do what they do, because if you want to go a different way you’ll find yourself very frustrated.

Also, it’s important to note that many VFX vendors will now give you access to their internal tracking systems. This is great, and can be a useful way to communicate, but never rely on the vendor’s database in lieu of your own. That’s a guaranteed way to have things fall through the cracks. You must always keep your own list of shots and what their statuses are.

The Basics

So assuming you’ve got an idea of how you’re going to track your shots, let’s go over the details of what information you need to include.

VFX Shots

A record of every shot is the basis for everything you’re going to do from here on out. The most important information to track is:

  • the Shot ID, which you are responsible for creating. A regularly used naming system is to come up with 2-letter abbreviations for all the VFX sequences in the film, and then starting from 0010, name all your shots in increments of 10. So if your sequence is called “Things Explode”, you would start out with shots IDed as TE0010, TE0020, TE0030, etc. This pattern is easy to communicate verbally, easy to type (no need to hit shift for an underscore separator, e.g.), and allows you to maintain a rough chronological order if you need to insert a new shot after an existing one. It is also not dependent on the scene number where a VFX shot is located, which some people like to include as part of the Shot ID, but which I think is an irrelevant piece of information for VFX purposes.
  • the duration of the shot. This can be either the duration in cut or the total duration turned over for work, or both. Whatever’s more useful for you.
  • the shot’s handles. Handles refers to extra frames you’re asking the vendor to include beyond just what’s currently in the cut. It’s common that you’ll receive a shot back and want to add a few frames to the head or tail. If you only turned over the footage that was in your cut at the time, you wouldn’t be able to trim the shot. But if you have 8-frame handles, for example, that’s 16 extra frames you’ll get back that you can use in the cut if you need to.
  • the description of the shot. This is where you tell your VFX vendor what exactly you want them to do (and hope that they read it). Even if it’s really obvious. Do they need to key out the greenscreen and add laser beams coming from a cat’s eyes from frames 39-47? If so, write it down in the description.
  • the status of the shot. Keep your own list of what shots are In Progress, On Hold, Omitted, Final, and CBB (meaning “could be better”). Don’t rely on your vendor’s list, but do crosscheck your list with your vendor’s at regular intervals to be sure you’re on the same page with what work is left to do.
  • the vendor. You might have more than one vendor working for you. Make sure you track which shots go to which vendor.
  • the turnover date. It’s useful to know what date you turned a shot over to be worked on. If you name your turnover batches, note that down too.
  • the final version and date. When you’re nearing the end of your film, you will want to check that the vendor delivered the right version of each shot. Keeping a record in your database of what version was finaled and when will allow you to make sure you’ve got the right files in your DI. If you find that your vendor has delivered a newer version of a shot than what you noted down, be sure to ask them about it. It might just be a tech fix (something small they noticed and fixed without needing client review), but best to be sure.

Screenshot of Marty Kloner’s VFX database, showing a shot list for Star Trek Into Darkness

Elements

Every VFX Shot requires at least one Element. An element is a piece of footage required to complete the shot. If your VFX needs are not complicated, many of your shots will have only one element. For example, if you’re removing a scar from an actor’s face, you only need to hand over the shot that’s in the cut. If you’ve got complicated shots, then you might have a background plate and multiple foreground elements. For example, a screen replacement is a 2-element shot. You have the shot in the cut that has a TV in it, and you have the content you want to be inserted into the TV. Both of those elements would need to be handed over to your VFX vendor, along with information on how the TV content should be lined up with the background plate.

Important information to track for Elements is:

  • the element name and version. This can be as simple as taking your shot ID and adding a suffix to it. So if the shot is TE0010, your element might be called TE0010_bg1_v1. And another could be TE0010_fg_smoke1_v1. Have a conversation with your vendor to determine if they have a particular preference for element naming. The version number is useful in case you extend a shot beyond its handles. Then you would have to deliver a new element at the extended length, and you would increment your element version to v2.
  • the tape and timecode of the element. This should be pretty obvious. You and your vendor both need to know which parts of each element you’re actually using. You need this so you can generate DPX files, and they need it so they can line up the elements correctly. If you have a post facility making DPX files for you, you might not get a chance to check that the DPX elements are right before they go off to the vendor, but if you have a record of what material was supposed to be turned over, you can start to troubleshoot.
  • the handles you’re including. Element handles often mirror the shot’s overall handles, but sometimes you might need to customize it.
  • turnover dates and scan orders. It is common, especially if you have to scan film or go through a post house for DPX files, to turn over the elements for a lot of shots at once in one lump EDL or Pull List. It helps to keep track of when these batches were sent and what the name of the batch was
  • speed information. If there are any speed effects on your elements, note that in the element description. If it’s a fancier timewarp effect, you might also include a screenshot of the graph and note which frames have keyframes and what their speed % is.
  • You should be prepared to locate lens and focal distance data for a particular piece of footage if requested. This can usually be found on the original camera reports, or sometimes in the notes of an on-set vfx supervisor if there was one.

Received Versions

Keep track of every Quicktime you get back from your vendors, the date you received it, and any notes from the director or editor on fixes that need to be made. As mentioned above, also note when a version becomes final.

Avid timeline from John Wick 2

Final John Wick: Chapter 2 timeline with dailies on V1 and final VFX on V2. VFX Editor: Kim Huston

What Your Editor Needs Of You

Every film is a fight against entropy, but there are some steps you should do to make life easier for yourself and the Editor.

  • You need a fast way to navigate to every shot in your timeline, so use timeline clip notes (as of Media Composer 8.8) or put locators in the center of every VFX shot on the timeline. Preferably, put the locator on the plate/dailies. Put the Shot’s ID as the locator text. When I cut, I like to keep my dailies on V1. When I get a version of the shot back from the vendor, that goes on V2. Adjust as necessary if you need to use multiple tracks for a temp comp. When I get a new version of the shot, unless there’s a compelling reason to stack them, I’ll overwrite the old version on V2 with the new one. So in this way your locator always stays in the timeline even as you get newer and newer versions of shots above it.
  • Check the cut every so often for changes, and do it more frequently the closer you get to the end of your schedule. Make sure every clip note or locator is still there. Since you can’t rely on the editor to always tell you when things have changed, reviewing the cut yourself will help you find shots that may have been cut or trimmed without your knowledge.
  • If a shot has been extended beyond the frames that were initially turned over to VFX, confirm with the editor before proceeding. If it’s only a frame or two beyond the handles, the editor might opt to cut those two frames in order to stay within the boundaries of the shot. If it’s been extended more than that, you’ll need to revise your element’s timing and resubmit a new version of it to the vendor.
  • Give clip colors to your shots. I like having one color for versions of shots in-progress, and another color for versions I’ve finaled. This makes it easy to see at a glance if there are any missing shots that have not yet been finaled.
  • Always check with your editor how they want to handle putting new versions of shots in the timeline. Do they want to cut them in themselves? Do they want you to cut them in on a new track and then leave it to them to drag down to a lower track, or do they want you to just cut it in normally and tell them which shots to look at? Any way is fine, as long as you are able to show or tell them what’s changed and needs to be reviewed. Never make a change to an editor’s timeline without their knowledge.

Turnovers

A turnover is the name for the package of information that you generate and give to your VFX vendors and DI facility so that the VFX vendors can get to work.

In the most basic format, a turnover involves:

  • Generating count sheets (example) and reference Quicktimes to give to your vendors
  • Generating a pull list that you give to the facility managing your raw footage so that they can render your elements into DPX files to be delivered to the vendor
  • Determining how to get those DPX files to the vendor. Bigger Post facilities will have their own file transfer software (Aspera, GlobalData, etc.), but on an indie level you may need to provide a solution like MASV Rush.

What Your VFX Vendor Needs From You

  • The cut. Every shot needs to be viewed in the context of its surrounding shots, and it will help your VFX vendor tremendously to have a copy of the scene where the shots they’re working on will go. With it, they can check their own work and timing before wasting your time with a version that may look good in isolation and have an obvious problem in context. So when you’re first turning over shots for a scene, send them a Quicktime with the shot names burned in (along with your usual Property Of…. security titles). I’ve written up a workflow for quickly creating these burn-ins using the locators on the timeline and the Avid SubCap tool. Check with your editor, and studio or post supervisor for any security requirements specific to your show before sending a cut sequence out.
  • Quicktime reference files. In addition to giving your vendor the full scene, you should send a reference for each individual vfx shot, including handles. If you’ve done a temp version of a shot then you should send that to your vendor as well. And some vendors will also ask for Quicktimes of every element you’re sending them to their full scan length.
  • Count Sheets (example count sheet for a timewarp from Hellboy 2). These PDFs (or occasionally CSVs) tell the vendor about every shot you’re requesting from them, what materials they will need to complete the shot, and where to find them. They detail any bit of information relevant to the artists working on the shot, such as speed effects, resizes, extensions, and elements that will come from secondary vendors.
  • Dailies LUTs may be requested so that the vendor can send Quicktime versions to you for approval that match the dailies color you’ve been editing with.
  • Communication. You should be in constant contact with your vendor about the status of all your shots, what versions of shots you should expect to receive week after week, and what notes you have to relay back to them so they can move on to the next version.

What You Need From Your VFX Vendor

  • On a regular basis you should receive Quicktimes of each shot, in the spec and codec of your offline edit (DNxHD115, e.g.), to put into your cut. These usually come any time there is a new version of a shot that you need to review, and should have their filename and a running frame count burned in on every frame, plus usually a 1-frame slate at the beginning with a few more details like the vendor, date, etc. This is all standard, your vendor will likely do this automatically.
  • When you’re ready to begin your DI, you should establish a workflow to get finished shots from your vendor to your DI facility. Sometimes the vendors will send them directly, and sometimes they’ll send the finished DPXs to you to check and relay to the DI.

Count sheet page from my Hellboy 2 Opticals database. VFX were handled separately by Ian Differ, but I handled the workflow for the hundreds of timewarps we used.

Finishing

When you get to the finishing/DI part of the process, things can start getting lost easily. Your DI facility is often receiving shots from multiple vendors that have to match up exactly to the filenames listed in the EDLs that you’re providing them, and with so much data coming in all the time it’s common for mistakes to be made. Catch those mistakes as early as you can, but you should also get in the habit of asking for a VFX EDL from the DI timeline whenever they provide confidence check Quicktimes to Editorial. When you receive those, go through and make sure that each VFX version listed in the DI EDL matches up to the expected final version in your editor’s timeline. Use the confidence check Quicktimes as another means of visually making sure that all the shots look right and are correctly cut in. You may be duplicating some of this error checking work with the 1st Assistant Editor, but that’s okay. In this part of the process, you cannot be too careful. Errors that go unnoticed at this point can easily make it into the final deliverable, and obviously you don’t want to catch an error when you’re delivering the final DCP.

In this phase it is highly likely that a sound mix will be going on concurrently to the delivery of the last remaining VFX shots. It’s very helpful to the sound team if you keep an eye on any changes to the VFX that would affect what they’re doing. Like if the editor slips a shot that has a muzzle flash in it, your sound team will want to know that so they can adjust the sfx of the gunshot. It’s hard to keep track of everything that might affect sound, but just keep that in the back of your mind as you’re going through your normal duties.

Conclusion

I have not gotten very specific on a step-by-step workflow in this post because it is honestly different for everyone. Create a workflow that works for you, your team, and the specifics of your project. As long as the right information is getting relayed in a timely manner to your vendor, DI facility, VFX Producer & Post Supervisor, then you’re doing fine. Good luck!

Attachments:

Feature Turnover Guide

Feature Turnover Guide

I had written a whole post on turnovers, but quickly found that it went out of date. So here’s my attempt to write a more future-proof guide to getting the materials of your film turned over to all the various departments that editors and assistant editors interact with. This post primarily deals with turnovers to sound, music, and DI/online. There will be another post dealing with VFX.

For the TL;DR crowd, see my normal spec list

What Is A Turnover?

When you hear someone referencing a turnover, it simply means the handing off of all or part of the film from Editorial to another department. Since the other departments on your project (sound, music, vfx, digital intermediate/online conform, etc.) don’t generally have access to your editing system and all of the media you’re using, you have to give them the material to work from in the appropriate format for what they need to do with it.

How Do I Know What To Turn Over?

Once you do this a few times it’ll become an easy and predictable task. The first time you do it, it may be a little intimidating, and you may have lots of questions that even the people you need to turn over to can’t answer. To help, always think of what your turnover recipients are going to do with your materials once you hand them off. What’s most useful for them? What would get in the way if it was done wrong? Putting yourself in their shoes can help you answer a lot of questions on your own.

For example, sound and music departments often ask for split audio Quicktimes. For sound, this means dialogue on the left channel and sfx/music on the right. For music, however, this means they want dialogue/sfx on the left channel and music on the right. If you pause to think about why these specs are that way, it will help inform any other questions that come up. Sound departments’ primary concerns are cleaning up your dialogue and adding a great sound effects track. So it makes sense that for their offline reference they’ll want to be able to hear clean dialogue, and mute your temp sound effects and temp music if they want to. For a composer, many of them have no interest in hearing your temp music, so they want to be able to keep your dialogue and sound effects while composing a new score in place of your music track. As I mention below, though, I now tend to make stereo WAVs of dialogue, sfx, and music all separate from the Quicktime so that I don’t have to deal with panning a stereo QT and they have even finer grain control over the audio they hear.

On the picture side, an example might be the request not to letterbox your reference Quicktime when turning over to the DI. If you think about it, the DI facility is responsible for recreating your cut using your RAW footage or scanned film frames. The more information they can get about how you cut the film together, the faster they can work and the more accurate their timeline will be. EDLs go a long way, but sometimes you just have to go frame by frame and see what’s in the cut. If you matte your reference Quicktime, they might have to eye-match to your footage, which is time-consuming and error prone. By not matting your reference Quicktime, they can see the source filename and the timecode burn-in of each frame, and cross-check that with their online edit.

Components of a Turnover

These are most of the common items you’ll need to generate for a turnover. You need a set of these for each reel unless otherwise noted.

Quicktimes

First and foremost, a turnover generally requires a visual reference of your project, and this is usually a Quicktime rendered out from your editing application. For a film project, which is what I’ll focus on here since that’s my primary area of work, this usually means one Quicktime file per reel. Before you render a Quicktime out, you should check a bunch of things:

  • Do your reels have head and tail leader?
    • Head leader is an 8-second countdown with a one frame audio pop on the 2. Tail leader has a Finish frame and pop 2 seconds in, but can be of varying length after that. I usually go with a 10 foot (160 frame) tail leader. Get in the habit of putting your leader and audio pops on every track in your sequence, not just V1 and A1 (but do lower the volume of all the pops to a comfortable level).
  • Do your reels each start on the right hour?
    • Film reels start on the hour according to their reel number, including head leader. So Reel 1 should have a Start TC of 01:00:00:00, Reel 2 at 02:00:00:00, etc. On your head leader, the hour mark would correspond with the Picture Start frame, and your first frame of content would be at 8 seconds flat.
    • While checking Start TC you should also verify that your Footage counter is zeroed out. In Avid, if you right-click on your sequence and go to Sequence Report, you can check the starting Footage (or EC, for Edge Code) count of the sequence and reset it to 0+00 if need be.
  • Does your sequence need a matte?
    • Most departments will not want to see all the burn-in information such as filename, source timecode, audio timecode, etc., so you’ll want to keep a matte handy to cover it all up to the appropriate aspect ratio of your project.
    • Some departments will want to see this information, and you should be sure not to matte your burn-ins for them. When turning over to the DI or to anyone in Marketing (trailer editors, e.g.), don’t include a matte.
  • Does your sequence need additional burn-ins such as TC or Feet & Frame counters?
    • Most everyone will want a visible timecode counter on every turnover you make. I usually put sequence TC in the upper left and F&F in the upper right corners of the letterbox, and I make the font size pretty big so it can be read at a glance from far away.
    • There is a school of thought that you can export QTs more quickly by adding these counters with other software (Compressor, e.g.) after the initial export from your NLE. I really disagree with this approach, because the burn-ins you add directly into your sequence serve as a good double-check that everything is as it’s supposed to be. All of your other deliverables (AAFs, WAVs, EDLs, etc.) will be wrong if your sequence TC is off and you didn’t notice that because you just exported your video without a burn-in and pasted one on later.
  • Have you burned-in the name and date of your sequence somewhere in the frame?
    • You’ll send lots of turnovers over the course of a film, and you need to give your turnover recipients a way to talk with you about a particular version. If you put the sequence name and date visible on screen, that gives them multiple ways to refer to a particular version or a particular date. For example, R1_v20_SOUND_140204 might be how I’d name a Reel 1 (version 20) sequence for Sound that I delivered on 2/4/14.
    • Sometimes, as with trailer editors, you’ll receive Quicktimes back that have been cut together using multiple turnovers and asked to reconstruct that edit in the Avid. In this case, knowing exactly which turnover sequence each shot is referring to and what timecode a shot was pulled from will help you to quickly do your overcut, so having a lot of information burned-in can help you later on as well.
  • What kind of security markings do you need to add?
    • I usually keep a bin of title templates handy that add things like Property Of Production Company, the date, and the name or initials of the person receiving the file. These burn-ins go in frame, not in the letterbox, so that people can’t crop them out as easily. I put security titles on my topmost video track so it doesn’t get buried by anything. If you have subtitles in your film, make sure you’re not covering them up.
    • Some studios have a spec sheet for how they like their security markings, and others just want something but aren’t specific about what or where in the frame they want it. It’s all pretty standard, but I like to have my text be partially transparent so as to be very visible but not super annoying to watch.
  • Does your Quicktime need embedded audio?
    • I personally prefer to export audio separately and leave my Quicktimes mute. Most of the time this is ok, but sometimes you’ll need to embed audio. If you need to embed split audio (Left channel: dialogue, Right channel: music/sfx, e.g.), I usually recommend against doing this in Avid since it involves re-panning your sequence. Avid doesn’t do well with re-panning, especially if you’ve used AudioSuite effects in your timeline. In that case I export dialogue, music, and sound effects separately as mono WAVs and then add them to the exported Quicktime using Quicktime Pro, panning them there as necessary.
  • Is there a specific codec required? If not, what is the best codec?
    • EDIT August 2018: This paragraph used to recommend codecs that are now outdated, and since it’s now much easier to transfer large files and more applications support DNxHD, I use DNxHD for everything. Probably within a couple years that will include DNxHR, which as of this writing I am only just starting to try out. H.264 is still a no-no for turnovers for a variety of reasons including that it does frame interpolation, color often gets crushed upon export from Avid, and H.264 is meant mainly as a playback codec and not as a means for actively working with video files.

Here’s an example of what a fully prepped Quicktime could look like. I didn’t have much content I could post publicly, so instead you get to see me solving the Golf Ball Water Globe. Notice the tracks are split, too. The burn-in is maybe a little big.

Guide Tracks

This is self-explanatory, but it’s one of the main reasons to try to keep your audio tracks organized. When you get into post you’ll have to turn over a set of audio files (usually WAV or AIFF) that contain only dialogue, only effects, and only music. The only way to export these files is to keep the audio clips on separate tracks, so I usually do the work of splitting my tracks out in a duplicated sequence for the first turnover and then copy the split tracks back into the main reels so that my work is preserved even as the edit changes.

Each guide track should be exactly the same length as your Quicktime, and have a 2-pop and finish pop as described above so that the guide tracks can be lined up with the Quicktime in an audio editing application to assure the sound team that everything is in sync.

AAF (a.k.a. OMF)

An AAF is a file that allows you to give your timeline to other applications. For example, an AAF of your audio tracks can be imported into Pro Tools where a sound editor can work with your clips exactly as you’ve cut them in your NLE. At the minimum, AAFs contain metadata about your timeline and the clips in it. You can also choose to include the media that those clips reference inside of the AAF, or you can have the AAF link to an external media directory. Either way, you would  usually export an AAF with media handles, so that the person receiving your file has a bit of extra media on either end of each clip’s in/out points.

If you’re making an AAF for ProTools, make sure you have AAF Edit Protocol set. This will allow your AAF to exceed 2GB in file size if it needs to. I also usually set the options to Render All Effects and Include Rendered Effects. Be a little careful with this, as you might run into the same problem with AudioSuite effects that I mentioned above. It’s best to make sure all of your AudioSuite effects are rendered in your timeline before starting to make any turnovers. You can render them globally using the fast menu of the AudioSuite window. If there were unrendered effects in your timeline, check that they rendered correctly before going further.

Typical AAF Export Settings

Typical AAF Export Settings

The terms AAF and OMF are mostly interchangeable, or are at least used interchangeably by many people including myself. This is because OMF is the original file format everyone used, but now the AAF file type has superseded it. This is in part since OMF files are limited to a maximum size of 2GB, which isn’t enough if you’re embedding a full reel’s worth of audio. If you’re running a newer version of Avid, you will only be able to export an AAF. FCP7 will only export OMFs natively, and AAFs with Automatic Duck. I have no idea what FCPX can do, but you probably need to buy a plug-in to get AAF functionality. In any case, the two files are almost the same thing, and a lot of people will still ask for an OMF even though they actually need an AAF.

Also, if your project is still using OMF audio media, which is different than making an OMF files, that can cause some weird problems with AAF exports, among other things. There are many reasons why you should not have any OMF audio in your project, and there is not a single reason why you should. Consciously using OMF audio in Media Composer is like willfully using Windows 95 when a new Mac is available. Don’t do it, go MXF/PCM all the way and you’ll save yourself a lot of headache.

Cut Lists, Change Lists, and/or EDLs

Cut lists and EDLs tell other people and other applications about the order and duration of clips in your timeline. For Change Lists specifically, even though every department we interact with relies heavily on our ability to make them, they are currently a nightmare to make in Avid Filmscribe. The program has been super buggy for years to the point where it’s almost unusable, and it can require you to spend a lot of time simplifying your sequence before Filmscribe will make a change list without crashing. I can’t accurately describe the loathing I have for Filmscribe. That said…

Cut Lists

Cut Lists are good for giving to DI companies when doing your conform. They can reference either source timecode for tape or file-based footage, or list keycode for material originating on film. Fewer and fewer companies are using Cut Lists, though, and instead opting for other methods involving EDLs.

Change Lists

As soon as you turn over your movie more than once, you’ll likely need to hand over a change list. As you would suspect, this tells the person receiving your turnover how the edit changed between the last time you gave it to them and now. For sound and music departments, this helps them conform their ProTools sessions so they can update and smooth over their sessions to match the new version of picture. For the DI, a change list helps them match their online sequence to your offline Quicktime reference, and then determine if there’s new material they need to get from you in order to recreate your cut.

Until Filmscribe gets a total rewrite, it’s best to thoroughly scrub your sequences clean of complexity before loading them into the app. By this I mean you should reduce your sequences to the fewest number of tracks possible, save one layer out of any collapsed clips before removing them, and then remove any additional effects. Since you need Filmscribe to tell you only what’s changed, be sure to reduce the complexity of your sequence the same way every time. For example, if you pull the V1 layer out of a collapsed clip the first time, make sure you do it the second time, too. Try to make the sequences as similar as possible, so that the change list only reflects actual changes instead of having a lot of events in the list that look like changes but aren’t.

Once you’ve got your sequences set, drag the appropriate sequences into the Old and New sections, set your settings and click Preview. I usually like to do a Columnar or Optical Block list with Master Durations and Ignore Color Effects set (though you should’ve removed all of these already). Under the Change List options I select only Name, and KN Start if applicable. Save it out as a .txt file and you’re good to go. If the app crashes instead of giving you a previewed file, you might still have an effect in your timeline that it’s too dumb to handle.

Change List Options

Change List Options

Rebalanced Change Lists are made when you’ve moved a chunk of footage from one reel to another. To make one of these, first make sure your sequences have the Reel column filled out in your bin. Then in Filmscribe, drag your two old sequences and two new sequences into the appropriate spots and make your list. If you don’t do this and make only single change lists from each version, it won’t be clear from the change lists that material was moved between reels. It will just look like you deleted a bunch of stuff from one reel and added a bunch of other stuff to another.

EDLs

EDLs are a timecode-only (no keycode) list of “events” that describe, in order, the clips in your timeline. They’re a relic from the days of tape, but they’re surprisingly useful for all sorts of other things. Most editing and finishing applications take them, and they provide a simple and standard way to define a timeline and the material in it. For example, color correction software can use it to notch a timeline, so that if you give them a Quicktime to color-correct, you can also give them an EDL to tell them where each shot starts and ends. You can also use them to get a source list of the files used in your edit, or to get information out of Avid and into another form, such as a Subcap file. I also sometimes receive them, as in the case where you’re finishing a DI and the DI company sends you an EDL of all the VFX shots they’ve cut into their timeline so you can check that all the shots are there and are the right version.

Normal options for EDLs are to include the Source Clip Name, Locators, and Effects. Make sure to use the File_16 or File_32 list format if your source is an Alexa/RED/Sony/etc. so you can fit the full filename in. For digital cameras you should always have your full filename in the Tape bin column. DaVinci Resolve, which many DITs use to transcode footage for Editorial, does not have that option turned on by default, so make sure the DIT turns it on in the Timeline Conform pane in Resolve. If you get footage without proper info in the Tape column, I usually recommend duplicating the filename from the Name column into the Camroll and Labroll columns before renaming the Avid clips into Scene/Take format. The Camroll and Labroll columns are more easily changed than the Tape column, but if you’re careful it should work fine, be redundant, and either of those two columns can be used in EDL Manager in place of Tape.

Audio EDLs are useful for dialogue editors to go back and get the original audio file’s iso tracks, and most will ask for a set of EDLs on your first turnover to the Sound department to help them. In this case you would turn off all the V tracks in EDL Manager, turn on all  A tracks containing your dialogue, and use the Soundroll column as your source tape setting (if you have Soundroll and Sound TC filled in). If you don’t have Soundroll and Sound TC info, adjust these settings to match whatever metadata you do have.

One word of advice: always check the Console if EDL Manager gives you a warning message. It looks daunting but it will tell you what clips didn’t have the metadata it was expecting, and you can use that to see if you have a problem or if you can ignore it and keep going.

My Usual Specs

Unless I hear otherwise from the departments I’m working with, here are the specs I will give them for each reel:

Sound

  • Mute Quicktime – 1080p DNxHD 36 or 115. QT is letterboxed with sequence TC and F&F burn-ins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings. Sometimes you may want to leave it unletterboxed if there is audio timecode that the sound department wants to see.
  • Stereo WAVs  – one each for dialogue, music, and sfx tracks
  • AAF with 96 frame handles, AAF Edit option checked, media embedded if necessary. Render All Effects and Include Rendered Effects options checked, but no others
  • Audio EDL of each reel’s dialogue tracks (usually for the first turnover only)
  • Change List (from the last version they received to the current one. They might not be sequential versions)

Music

  • Mute Quicktime -1080p DNxHD 36 or 115 unless otherwise requested by the composer. QT is letterboxed with TC and F&F burn-ins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings
  • Split Stereo WAVs  – one each for dialogue, music, and sfx tracks
  • AAF with the same options as above, if requested.
  • Change List (from the last version they received to the current one. They might not be sequential versions)

DI

  • Mute Quicktime – 1080p DNxHD 36 or 115 (or whatever is Same as Source). QT is not letterboxed, but still has sequence TC and F&F burn-ins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings
  • EDLs of split video tracks, so that’s one EDL per camera type (35mm, RED, GoPro, etc.), one EDL with all VFX, and one EDL with any opticals (resizes, speed effects, dissolves).
  • Stereo WAV, not split out, for reference and so they have something to play during reviews
  • Avid bin containing your sequence(s), if requested
  • Change List (from the last version they received to the current one. They might not be sequential versions)
  • Pull List and Cut List (for film only)

Marketing

  • Mute Quicktime – 1080p DNxHD36 or ProRes (Gamma Correction Off), no fast start. QT is not letterboxed, but still has sequence TC burn-in with sequence name in large font, plus date and other security markings. I usually make security markings for Marketing turnovers big and annoying, since these often get forwarded on to multiple companies out of your control or contact.
  • Split Stereo WAVs – one each for dialogue, music, and sfx tracks.
    • If embedded audio is required, dialogue on Left channel, sfx and temp score on Right (or sometimes full mix on Right, if requested)

ADR

  • Mute Quicktime -1080p DNxHD 36 (unless ADR requests otherwise). QT is letterboxed with TC and F&F burnins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings. For ADR, don’t have a center security burn-in since it can get in the way of an actor’s ability to sync to their mouth onscreen. If you must have a center burn-in, make it center-ish with partially transparent letter outlines only and no fill.
    • If you’re only getting ADR in a small portion of a reel and are worried about security in the ADR studio (especially for remote sessions), trim the export sequence to only the necessary scene, but make sure that the timecode is still correct. In Avid if you make a subsequence, it will keep the timecode it came from originally, which is what you want. Make one QT for each scene that you need. Alternatively, you can export one Quicktime of the whole reel but lift out the portions of it that are not needed so there’s just black inbetween. This isn’t totally necessary, but why have more material floating around than you have to?
  • Dialogue WAV only

MPAA

  • For delivery to the MPAA, either DVD, some tape formats, or DCP (2D or 3D) is allowed. 2D Blu-ray is ok also (but risky in my opinion), and no 3D Blu-rays are allowed at all.
    • Property of Production Company burn-in only, no bigger than 10pt font, located at the very top or bottom of frame
    • No other burn-ins allowed
    • Total Running Time printed on the label

Attachments:

Avid Locators to FCS Chapter Converter

Avid Locators to FCS Chapter Converter

As a supplement to my post on how to convert an Avid locators file to chapter markers for Final Cut Studio, I decided to just make a little web app to do it for you. Paste the contents of your locators file in the top box, click Convert, and then copy/paste the contents of the bottom box into a new text file and import that into DVDSP or Compressor.

If you forgot to change the starting timecode of your sequence Hour 0, you can batch add or subtract a certain # of hours using the control below.

Enjoy!

Converting Avid Locators to DVD Studio Pro Chapter Markers

Converting Avid Locators to DVD Studio Pro Chapter Markers

I have two methods for making DVDs for directors, depending on how quickly the DVD is needed and what quality level or features are required. For faster but lower-quality DVDs, I just play out to a standalone DVD Recorder. For higher-quality DVDs I usually export a Quicktime, run it through Compressor, and ultimately bring it into DVD Studio Pro. When I go the DVD Studio Pro route, I also like to take the opportunity to appropriately chapter my DVDs. It’s a pretty quick and easy thing to do, and provides a more meaningful set of chapter points than the automated ones you get on a standalone recorder. My favorite method for quickly chaptering a Quicktime uses Avid locators to provide Compressor and DVD Studio Pro with my chapter points. Below is the process I use, or for the shortcut just use the online tool I created.

TOOL: Locator to Chapter Marker Converter

Converting Avid Locators to Compressor/DVDSP Chapter Markers

In order to convert Avid locators to chapter markers, a little knowledge of regular expressions is required. You also need an advanced text editor that can handle regular expressions (I use the free and multi-platform jEdit). You do not need to add locators to your sequence before you export it. Exporting your sequence and making locators suitable for chaptering can be done in either order. You do need to have exported and processed your locator file before you go into Compressor, though.

Adding Locators to Your Sequence

To prepare your sequence, change the sequence Start time to 00:00:00:00. I normally clear out all the other locators in my sequence as well, and since I always copy a sequence to a new bin before I export it, removing the locators isn’t an issue for me. If you’d like to keep your existing locators, then just add a new video track and put all of your chapter locators there.

Once your pre-existing locators are cleared and/or you’ve got yourself a new video track to work with, go ahead and add a locator at every point you’d like to make into a new chapter on your DVD. Once all your locators are added, go to the Locators window and export them to a text file. If you’ve chosen to add your locators to a new track while keeping existing locators on other tracks, then sort the Locators window by track, select all the locators you just added, and export only those Selected locators to a text file.

Exporting Avid Locators

Exporting Avid Locators

Converting the Locators Text File to a Chapter Marker File

Once you’ve got the text file with your exported locators, it’s time to open it in your advanced text editor. An exported locator file initially looks like this:

Evan Schiff    00:02:18:09    V4    white    Chapter1
Evan Schiff    00:03:11:11    V4    white    Chapter2
Evan Schiff    00:04:57:18    V4    white    Chapter3
Evan Schiff    00:06:41:16    V4    white    Chapter4
Evan Schiff    00:07:37:06    V4    white    Chapter5
Evan Schiff    00:08:29:05    V4    white    Chapter6
Evan Schiff    00:12:33:04    V4    white    Chapter7
Evan Schiff    00:13:33:23    V4    white    Chapter8
Evan Schiff    00:15:19:11    V4    white    Chapter9
Evan Schiff    00:16:14:15    V4    white    Chapter10
Evan Schiff    00:17:44:20    V4    white    Chapter11

Using a regular expression search/replace, you can instantly reformat your locator file to conform to Compressor and DVDSP’s required marker file format, which looks like the text below:

00:02:18:09 Chapter1
00:03:11:11 Chapter2
00:04:57:18 Chapter3
00:06:41:16 Chapter4
00:07:37:06 Chapter5
00:08:29:05 Chapter6
00:12:33:04 Chapter7
00:13:33:23 Chapter8
00:15:19:11 Chapter9
00:16:14:15 Chapter10
00:17:44:20 Chapter11

If you don’t label your locators, all you’ll see in the marker file is timecode. This is fine, the only required data is the timecode, and DVDSP will automatically add chapter labels if you don’t supply them.

To reformat the file, you would use the following regular expression:

^[\w\s]*(\d{2}\:\d{2}\:\d{2}\:\d{2})\tV\d\t\w+\t(.*)$

Your text editor’s dialog box would look something like the image below. I usually do a couple Replace & Find clicks just to make sure the pattern is working before I hit Replace All and save the file.

Regular Expression Search/Replace

N.B. In the Replace dialog box, your text editor may use either $1 or \1 to make back-references.

Importing Markers into Compressor

After you’ve saved your new marker file, open up Compressor and load your Quicktime into it. Make sure the Quicktime is selected in the main window and displaying in the Preview window. To the right of the Preview window’s timeline, you’ll see the marker button, under which you can Import Chapter List. Select your file, and if everything’s been done correctly, you should see markers pop up in the appropriate places in your movie.

Compressor Menu to Import Markers

Compressor Menu to Import Markers

Successfully Imported Markers

Successfully Imported Markers

Once your markers and DVD export settings are ready to go, Submit the job. Once the render finishes, you can import it into your DVDSP template file, and as soon as you lay it down onto a track you’ll see that the markers/chapter points appear automatically.

Why can’t I just add chapter points directly in DVD Studio Pro?

You can, but there are several limitations you’ll be imposing upon yourself. First and foremost, if you make your m2v without adding the markers first, you will not always be able to add a chapter point at the exact frame you want to. To get technical for a minute, when you encode an m2v file the frames of your source Quicktime are compressed into three types of mpeg frames. These are I-frames, P-frames, and B-frames (read your Compressor or DVDSP User Guide for more detail). You can only place a chapter marker on an I-frame, and if you don’t tell the encoder where you want an I-frame to be, it will put them wherever it sees fit, and this may or may not be on the frame that you want to make into a chapter point.

Second, the Compressor and DVDSP timelines are not nearly as precise as Avid’s, and don’t give you the visual identification of where clips start and end. I find it much faster to put accurate chapter points on the Avid timeline than in either Compressor or DVDSP.

You can put your chapter points wherever you like in DVDSP if you import the Quicktime directly and let DVDSP make your m2v file, but then you lose all the advantages of using Compressor, not to mention still having to deal with DVDSP’s clumsy timeline.

Hellboy 2 Turnover Workflow

Introduction

Turning over reels from HD material in your Avid to sound, music, and marketing departments is a process that requires a lot of rendering time no matter which way you do it. At the outset, your two options for getting your Avid material into Quicktime format are to either export the reel directly to QT, or to play out in real-time to another computer running the capture tool in FCP. Below is a table of all the turnover specs for each department, which I think are pretty standard requirements, followed by a discussion for what we tried on Hellboy 2 and how we ultimately chose to accomplish all of these turnovers.

[TABLE=2]

Exporting a QT vs. Playing Out to FCP (for SD Turnovers)

As you can see in the table above, the majority of our turnovers were Quicktime-based. If the Marketing Department hadn’t required an unmasked image, I probably would have used my sound turnover QTs to make their DVD, too. And if I had more time to experiment, I probably would’ve devised a way to export ‘blank’ QTs without a matte and then apply the matte in Compressor, which I actually did do on a few isolated occasions but never ended up incorporating into the workflow. But anyway, moving on…

As I mentioned above, there is no part of making an SD turnover from your HD material that is quick and painless, unless you are going to something with a 29.97 frame rate. The problems are basically these:

  1. Exporting an average-length reel (~20 minutes) from 1920×1080 in the Avid to a 720×486 (or similar-sized) QT takes an average of 1.5 hours per reel.
  2. Playing out via an SD output on the Adrenaline to another computer running FCP means that you’re going out of the Avid at 29.97fps, without giving FCP a way to know where your A-frame is and so reliably bring you back to 23.976. If all you need is 29.97 SD, then the biggest drawback to this is just the quality of whichever type of video output you use (SDI, Composite, S-Video, etc.)
  3. If you play out via HD-SDI to an FCP station capturing in HD, you still face the task of compressing the HD QT that FCP creates down to SD. If you figure 20 minutes to play out, plus roughly an hour to trim the QT and compress to SD, you’re looking at about the same amount of time as an export.

A black box hardware solution that takes HD-SDI and outputs a QT of the specified size in real-time without adjusting frame rate would be great. There must be something like this in existence, but I haven’t heard about it yet and haven’t seen anything in my searches that sounds like it does what I want. So since I couldn’t find a box like this, and since the tedious process of rendering, playing out, and compressing down to SD was roughly equivalent in time to exporting a reel directly to QT, I chose to go the direct export route. Ultimately, that meant a simpler turnover process for us in Editorial, as well as higher quality video for the departments who would be receiving the turnovers.

An Exception:

When we started our turnovers, I did go the playout route for our Composer and Music Editor. Their specs had originally asked for 320×240 QTs @ 29.97, but when I sent them a 720×486 QT just to test out, they decided they liked the higher quality files (who wouldn’t?) and changed their spec. So I played out through a Canopus box to FCP, trimmed the QTs and sent them on their way until one day we decided to test exporting a 29.97 from our 23.976 Avid project. The frame rate test worked (going from 24.000 -> 29.97 still doesn’t, I believe), but at the same time the Music Editor was testing the new QT he was noticing how much higher quality the exported video was. And so the workflow changed again…

Exporting Reusable Quicktimes Efficiently

One of the biggest tricks I developed on HB2 was to create Quicktimes that I could reuse. Since the biggest outlay of time required in turning over is exporting HD material to an SD Quicktime file (AAFs, guide tracks, and EDLs require much less time, and can all be done while the QTs are exporting with time to spare), the more work you can divert to Compressor instead of Avid, the better. We ended up exporting “blank” Quicktimes, which contained almost all of the visual burn-ins required for all of our turnovers except for individual initials. We also exported these Quicktimes without any audio, since it takes time and rendering to pan audio tracks in the Avid (and problems multiply if you have any Time Compression effects), and since you’re limited to 2-track stereo on any QT export from Avid.

This is what our “blank” Quicktimes looked like after they were exported mute from the Avid. They have a 1.85 matte covering the key numbers, the requisite “Property Of”, the version of the reel, and the date.

blank_qt_burnin1

After these Quicktimes finished exporting, we would then take them into Quicktime Pro and add the audio guide tracks we had exported on a different Avid while the QT was rendering out. Each guide track was added as a separate audio track to the QT, which in the end gave us a QT with three audio tracks (DX and FX as mono AIFFs, and MX in stereo). We would then go in and set the channel of each audio track to either Left or Right depending on what we needed (this is changeable at any time, including after running through Compressor), and do a Save as Self-Contained Movie (~1 minute per file).

Once the audio was added and panned appropriately, we would then take it into Compressor for creating individualized Quicktimes. Our basic Compressor settings simply kept the video codec as it was (Motion JPEG A, Medium Quality), and set the audio as Pass-through so as to keep our discrete three-track audio. We then added a text overlay, saved the setting and started the render. Each reel takes approximately 10 minutes to render (keep in mind that results vary by codec), and produces a new, basically identical QT file that looks like this:

personalized_qt_burnin

HD Turnovers

There’s a lot less to talk about when making HD Quicktimes from an HD Avid project. Given the appropriate equipment, which I probably could’ve gotten on HB2 but never did, I think playing out HD-SDI would be the fastest way to go. Video quality is obviously not an issue when playing out HD-SDI, and there are no tricky frame rate issues to tackle. We generally only had to export a single set of HD Quicktimes, just for our mixing stage, so in that case we included the personalization in the Avid title we applied to the reels before export, and eliminated the need to go to Compressor afterwards. As the show neared completion we had a few HD-capable sound and foley stages requiring turnovers, so only then did we use the “blank” QT export -> Compressor personalization process. But again, given an AJA or Kona card, I’d probably would’ve just played each one out.

Summary

It is a lot of steps to create template Quicktimes, but what this workflow gave us was the flexibility to make multiple, customized copies of our reels quickly, easily, and in batch. I can’t count the number of times we were asked to create additional copies with slightly varying specs or burn-ins, and being able to do that without re-exporting from Avid was a life saver. Additionally, Compressor can be happily processing copies in the background while you continue to work in Avid. It may slow down the Compressor renders a little, but as long as you’re not doing anything too processor-intensive in Avid, you should have no problem with running both programs concurrently.

Timewise, the following are pretty accurate estimates, although it will clearly take some more time when you first set up your Compressor workflows or go through the Quicktime Pro process.

  • Prep burn-ins and matte in Avid – 2 minutes / reel
  • Export from Avid – 1.5 hours / 20-min reel  ** (This will change as processor speeds increase. Also, some people have had luck with creating Reference Quicktimes, but I haven’t.)
  • Export Guide Tracks – 5 minutes / reel (assuming you’ve split out your tracks before starting to turnover)
  • Add audio tracks to exported QT file in Quicktime Pro – 3 minutes / reel including time to save as Self-Contained Movie
  • Add individual burn-in using Compressor – 10 minutes / reel

Bonus

Aside from just sticking someone’s name on a QT, here are a few other things you can do with QTPro and Compressor:

  • Make a DVD of the whole feature
    • In QTPro, mark an IN/OUT on each of your ‘blank’ reels at the FFOA and LFOA, then copy and paste in reel order into a new movie. Verify your audio panning and reel breaks (wouldn’t want the reels in the wrong order!), then just Save as a reference movie. Take your reference movie into Compressor, make a new workflow (you can resize/add a matte or text as needed), and render to MPEG-2 and AC3 and burn to DVD in the software of your choice. Voila, 45 minutes of rendering to make the MPEG-2, ~10 minutes for the AC3, and you’ve just made a high quality DVD in less time than it would’ve taken to play it out analog.
  • Save time by rendering two halves of a reel simultaneously (Verify your results. 90% of the time this works flawlessly, 10% of the time there are inexplicable problems at the split point after Compressing)
    • If you have multiple Avids available and are short on time, you can render half of a reel on one Avid and half on the other. Make sure you render with the Use Marks option checked, and that your OUT mark on Avid #1 is adjacent to the IN mark on Avid #2. Once you have each half reel as a QT, copy/paste one half into the other, add your audio, and continue with the process by doing a Save as Self-Contained movie before bringing into Compressor. If you don’t have audio, you can just save as a reference movie. Always verify your results after running through Compressor, I’ve run into unexplained repeated frames at the splice point in my output QTs when doing this and have not been able to reliably recreate the conditions that cause them. But if you’re in a rush, it can be worth the risk.
  • Letterbox
    • I usually output my 720×486 turnover QTs as anamorphic, in part because it’s faster than making everything letterbox, and so far no one’s cared. On my next show I’ll use 864×486, since that’s the proper aspect ratio, and I don’t think I need to take NTSC client monitors into account anymore. Anyway, if you need to do a letterboxed 720×486 QT from an anamorphic original, Compressor can do this for you during your export. Just add the Letterbox option to your workflow and select either Matte or Resize accordingly.

File Delivery Methods

Introduction

For anyone who hasn’t worked in London’s Soho district, it is a dream come true in terms of having all of your post-production departments in one place. We were fortunate enough to be based there after we wrapped Hellboy 2 in Budapest, and it meant that our sound department was two doors down, our VFX vendor was at the end of the street, our mixing stages were right next door, our DI house was a 10-minute walk, and the meeting point in case of a fire was the pub across the street (and they served Pacifico, in case I got nostalgic for something Mexican). What this meant for us in terms of our turnover process was that delivering the turnover material was quick and painless, even if creating it wasn’t.

So here’s the rundown on how we delivered files to the people who needed them, and my preferences for delivery mediums:

  • Firewire Hard Drive
    • This is pretty straightforward, and by far the easiest way to get your files from Editorial to whoever needs them. I happen not to be a fan of LaCie drives due to the unreliability of their FireWire ports, but they’re cheap, replaceable, and their rugged versions are available with a triple interface (USB, FW, FW800). If you go cheap and use LaCie, just make sure you buy them from a vendor who’s willing to take them back and provide a replacement when the FW port fails. This happened to us twice (and I’ve had this experience on previous shows as well).
  • DVD
    • Do not burn Quicktimes to DVD. I have no information whatsoever on why this doesn’t work, but it doesn’t and you’ll waste your time trying to make it work reliably. Everything will appear to be ok when you burn the disc, but trying to copy the QT off of it fails. For security reasons, I also dislike DVDs because they rely on your recipients to properly dispose of or store them after they copy the files off. So because of these two limitations, I’ve abandoned this method entirely in favor of sending a courier on a return route with a hard drive.
  • USB Flash Drive
    • These work well for deliveries of small quantities of files. Make sure you plug your USB drive directly into the computer and not into a monitor or keyboard USB port (those are usually USB1 and are very slow). If you have a large quantity of small files, I recommend that you zip them up before copying to the flash drive, and then unzip after copying the zip file from it. Just due to the nature of how it works to copy files to/from a flash drive, it is faster to copy, for example, one 2GB Quicktime than it is to copy a thousand small text files. Just remember to clear off your flash drive when the file’s been delivered. These things have a habit of being left out in the open for anyone to swipe.
  • Electronic Delivery Methods
    • I’m a big proponent of delivering files electronically. It saves me time the time of copying to a drive and arranging delivery, and if the transfer process is well set-up, you can transfer direct from your network to the recipients’. If your transfer process involves you copying to a 3rd-party server, and then your recipient downloading from the same 3rd-party server, it might save more time to go the physical route with a FW hard drive, depending on your circumstances and geographic location.
    • FTP
      • Simple, easy to use (for some), and fast, FTP is a great option for non-confidential files. While the likelihood of anyone eavesdropping on your FTP session is slim to none, FTP is technically insecure. It transmits your passwords in plain text, and because of that if someone were to listen in they could, in theory, gain access to your account. But if that’s not a concern, then FTP has everything going for it, including the fact that anyone can set up an FTP server, and this frees you from using some poorly-designed corporate solution.
      • Tip: The concept of FTP seems to constantly elude non-techie users. If the recipient clearly has never heard the term “FTP client” before, don’t try to have them download Filezilla or Cyberduck, but instead first try to give them a URL a browser can read. I usually include a URL like this in any email to producers when using FTP:
        • ftp://username:password@server.com/folder
      • This is a standard FTP link that will work in any browser. If you are on a MediaTemple (gs) server, like I am, then these URLs will not work in Safari or IE, but will still work in Firefox, and look like this:
        • ftp://username@server.com:password@server.com/folder
    • Protected Folders on Websites
      • This has the same security limitations as FTP, in that the transmission of your password to the protected folder is insecure, on the off-chance that anyone is bothering to listen in. But it does allow you to give a standard http:// URL to your recipients, along with an easy-to-use username/password dialog box. I use this method as my last resort, and always remove the files I’m transferring as soon as I know that the recipients have them.
    • Digidelivery
      • Digidelivery is my favorite 3rd-party application for securely transferring files. It’s designed for use with ProTools sessions, but it will transfer anything and everything you give it. The client software is free, but you have to know someone with a server (or own one yourself). If the option is there to use Digidelivery, use it.
    • Signiant / Aspera
      • We used Signiant, and occasionally Aspera, to transfer files back to Universal on HB2. Our experience was mixed, there are things I like about how it’s set up, and things that clearly need some work. Universal has an excellent Digital Media Delivery team, though, that is working every day to improve the software, and I look forward to trying it out again some day. I won’t publish all the ins and outs of my experience using Signiant here, but I’d be happy to discuss it by e-mail if someone is about to start a show that will use it.
    • SmartJog
      • We used SmartJog very briefly on Rambo, actually. It’s a service for secure file transfers worldwide, but as far as I know it does not allow you to transfer to a client not on the SmartJog network, so it’s unlikely that your Editorial office will be set up with it. I think it’s mostly for studios and facilities, so if you’re on a show that’s using it, you will most likely have to send a drive to whatever facility you’re working with each time you want to receive a transfer.
    • Sohonet
      • Sohonet is an ISP, not a file transfer service, but its network is phenomenal, and if a significant number of your departments and/or vendors are on it, it can be fantastic. Basically, everyone who’s on Sohonet’s private fiber optic network can communicate with each other (i.e. FTP or Digideliver files) at speeds of around 80 Mbps (not to be confused with its equivalent of 10MBps). If you’re FTP-ing to someone outside of the Sohonet network, then your speed is just dependent on what kind of ‘external’ access you pay for.